Everybody in real estate knows the rap against “green” and energy efficiency improvements to existing homes: Owners can invest a lot of money and save on utility bills, but then when they go to sell they often find it’s tough to get paybacks through higher prices on their homes.
Complicating the situation is the fact that many multiple listing services do not have “green fields” in their listing formats to highlight energy efficiency improvements, so buyers who are potentially interested in high-performance homes can’t shop for them effectively. Then come the appraisers and lenders. In an era of appraisal management companies, assignments often are made based on low fees, and appraisers with no training in valuing green improvements either ignore them or give them only minimal upward adjustments. And when they try to give significant adjustments, underwriters often challenge them or simply ask for a revised, lower number.
Builders routinely market new homes carrying Energy Star, HERS, LEED and National Green Building Standard certifications, and buyers across the country recognize these as credible performance indicators. But purchasers of existing homes have no standardized guidance.
This is despite the fact that National Association of Realtors’ annual surveys of homebuyers and sellers have consistently found that buyers care about energy efficiency.
The 2012 survey, for instance, reported that 87 percent of buyers surveyed said a home’s heating and cooling costs were “important” or “very important” to them, whatever the age of the house. Energy efficient lighting and appliances also are seen as major pluses, with roughly 70 percent of purchasers ranking them important or very important